Report from Dorkfest London

The Dorkfest is a public event where hackers, circuit benders and other enthusiasts can demonstrate their latest creations. Or – as the website has it – the fest is a ”weekend gathering at the edge of art, science and uselessness”¦ a two day showcase of inventions and explorations into electricity and it’s (stranger) uses.”

Originally written as a part of the Modes of Production seminar series, arranged by Otto von Busch and Karl Palmås (spring 2006).

The event is a part of a global network, dorkbot, which was set up five years ago in Brooklyn, NYC. Since then, the network has grown considerably, and so has the general interest in dorky electric inventions. The London Dorkfest 2006, on the weekend of March 18/19 attracted 150 visitors on the Saturday night, and at least another hundred on the Free Sunday show-and-tell. The Dorkfest is also a part of NODE.London (Networked, Open, Distributed, Events. London), a month long season of media arts projects across London in March 2006.

MoP spoke to Greenman, the organiser of the event. In the NODE.London reader, he is described as someone who ”˜pretends to be some kind of philosopher-artist-programmer, but rarely succeeds”™. In the MoP discussion, he does however emphasise his background in software development as his primary background. This, he believes, has given him a certain approach to looking at the world – the world is open and malleable, and there is ample space for creative subjects to build better solutions for a better tomorrow.

For instance, Greenman is involved in a project called The Organization. Within this, he builds tools for people who wish to work in organisations that are more conducive to creativity and more likely to provide meaningful work. Originally set up as a CMS (Content Management System for web publishing), this features project management tools, as well as more alternative economic solutions – such as alternative currencies. (Greenman writes about this very topic in the NODE.London reader.) Thus, he hopes that this kind of solutions can spawn new organisations that are less hierarchical than the large corporations that populate today”™s economy.

Greenman”™s approach to ”˜hacking”™ economic forms changes what it means to be in business, and also changes what it means to be an artist or an activist. Connecting to some of the discussions of the MoP seminar series, MoP asked – does he consider himself to be an ”˜anti-preneur”™ (pace AdBusters)? Greenman responds that he would rather be called an entrepreneur, as he does not like to talk in negatives. ”˜Anti”™ is a misleading prefix that smacks of deconstruction, rather than creation.

Rather, he believes that the younger generation is moving away form postmodernist deconstruction, and on to (re-)construction and creation. In the same vain, he believes that the ”˜science wars”™ between natural sciences and cultural analysis has to be surpassed. Thus, he prefers terms like ”˜incorporationism”™ to explain his approach to entrepreneurship and activism. He also likes the term ”˜voodoo”™ to denote his approach – voodoo being a religion that continually incorporates new elements to the canon.

During the discussion, it is apparent that Greenman expresses many of the same ideas discussed within MoP. There is, it seems, a new worldview emerging, taking its cue from the field of new media. Sometimes the metaphor is provided by actual new media activities (such as hacking), sometimes it derives from ideas popularised in new media circles – Greenman mentions how he was introduced to memes and memetics in Wired Magazine. Nevertheless, Greenman”™s ideas also incorporate non-technological sources of inspiration – not just voodoo, but also role playing games.

In any case, the emerging worldview discussed with Greenman has several distinct traits. On the one hand, it deals with materiality and tangible processes – not ”˜just”™ culture or text. Here, the disjuncture with previous ”˜postmodern”™ or ”˜deconstructionist”™ approaches is evident, speaking of material flows or system dynamics is no longer taboo.

However, perhaps more importantly, it maintains that these systems – be they computer-based, economic or social – are never predetermined. Nor do they have any essences that bind them to a certain mode of operation. There is no such thing as the total, disciplinary system. Instead, these systems may at any time shoot off into other modes of operation, which makes them open for experimentation. There are always opportunities for creative experimentation – for efforts to build better tools for living.

Hence the significance of phenomena such as the Dorkfest. The optimistic, can-do attitude of the dorky enthusiast – such as hacker or the circuit bender – appears to be the activist ideal of the new, open, materially-informed worldview of Greenman and MoP.

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